The Shoura Council’s Social, Family and Youth Affairs Committee adopted a recommendation to restructure the Presidency of Youth Welfare and turn it into a ministry. The recommendation was based on the Presidency’s 2010 and 2011annual reports, but unfortunately the Council voted against it. There is, however, a need to reconsider this proposal.
Decision makers need to consider establishing a Ministry of Youth Affairs in order to elevate the importance of youth-related issues in the Council of Ministers and in other state sectors. This would guarantee a more effective contribution of the youth of the nation who represent 70 percent of the population, and are an essential factor in the country’s economic and social development. The future of the country depends on them, and they should be given an opportunity to lead the nation to greater heights.
The reform movement in Saudi Arabia has given the younger generation greater attention, and national budgets have been geared to education and the development of youth related affairs.
However, we need to examine the progress of reforms and assess the development of our programs in order to ensure that they are on the right track. There is a need to revise the strategies that have not met with the right kind of success. Better policies should be implemented to advance the most valuable human resource of the country, and better incentives should be provided to empower our future leaders. Their success or failure could influence the direction of our nation.
Government departments are keen to serve our youth, whether in the field of education, employment, health, environment, or recreational facilities; however, the needs and services required to develop the nation’s youth could be overwhelming. There have been many mistakes and some government officials have failed to provide quality services to ensure the safety and well-being of our young people. The nation owes them much more and must help them develop their talents and capabilities so that they can achieve their aspirations.
It is time that we involve our youth in research related to their needs and challenges, and use their input to develop policies that can protect their rights. Our young people can provide accurate information which will allow decision makers to formulate more effective youth related policies, laws and regulations. A youth ministry could engage young people and provide them the opportunity to come up with innovative ideas and offer solutions for youth related problems. It would become the ideal ministry for implementing the necessary measures to alleviate poverty, protect the youth environment, develop community awareness, organize and encourage public activities and events as well as to initiate and monitor international youth exchange. A youth ministry would be more reliable in monitoring and taking the responsibility for managing all youth related affairs.
It could allow our youth to share in the decision making process. Such an initiative could promote national solidarity and influence change. It would enhance the sense of patriotism among our youth and encourage their participation in the building of the nation. Engaging our young people and encouraging their participation through a ministry that they could relate to and connect with may be the ideal solution to their problems and frustrations. It could give young people a voice and allow them to communicate their ideas. It would motivate them to produce and strive to make their dreams come true.
Youth volunteerism needs to be further nurtured and promoted. Our youth demonstrated their willingness and proved their capabilities in volunteer work during the recent devastating Jeddah floods. We need to capitalize on this new movement that has given our youth a sense of pride and inner satisfaction. A ministry for youth affairs could support community service programs. Training our youth to serve their community through organized volunteer work could help create a more stable and harmonious society.
A youth ministry could develop youth diplomacy and promote international youth exchange. It would be effective in initiating intercultural dialogue between Saudi youth and the rest of the world. Encouraging global exchange can give our young people a sense of pride and allow them to explain their culture and traditions to the youth around the world and it would give them an opportunity to assert their role within the global community.
The Presidency of Youth Welfare has been ineffective and has not catered to the needs of our youth in spite of the millions that have been spent to support our athletes and encourage a sports culture in society. Our youth dream of qualifying for the Olympics and they aspire to win medals and gain international recognition. We must not continue to fail them. A ministry of youth affairs could be more effective with a stronger capacity for coordinating on an official level. The development of the sports sector must be given greater priority. A ministry would be in a better position to formulate effective strategies with meaningful funds and human resources to achieve the aspirations of our youth befitting the country’s reputation and position.
A ministry of youth affairs would be the ideal solution for protecting the rights of our young people and promoting their interests and well-being. Domestic violence, broken homes, crime and drug addiction are on the rise. Social scientists stress the need to address psychological and economic needs to protect the youth from stressful conditions that lead them astray and put them in harm’s way. Researchers constantly voice their concerns over inappropriate services and inadequate facilities. The welfare of our youth has been compromised by inefficient strategies and the incompetent implementation of youth related reforms. It is time we implement well-researched strategies that can be more effective in eradicating poverty and in providing job opportunities, better wages and more decent housing conditions in order to build a healthy, nonviolent and productive generation. The rights of our youth should be respected. It is about time that we enforce laws to protect them and policies to address their needs.
I hope our government will reconsider its decision and provide our young people with an opportunity to participate in the development of the nation and share in the decision making process through their own ministry. Let us all lobby for a Ministry of Youth Affairs.
Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.